Aug 13, 2008

World - Here's the sunny side of economic crunch

Oh, what a lovely credit crunch, it is turning out to be! Or, so it seems.
For all the doom and gloom on the economic front (the breaking news is that it is going to get bleaker over coming months) many Britons, apparently, are simply loving it: home-cooking, which means healthy food, is back in fashion; the mythically happy days when families ate together are here again with people re-discovering the lost art of conversation; and with socialising reduced to the odd must-attend leaving party parents are spending more “quality time” with their children.
An unintended effect of the economic crisis, we’re told, has been the return of domestic bliss evoking images of mum-and-dad-and-the kids all seated round the dining table, sharing the home-cooked meal over a sparkling conversation and then retiring to the living room to watch the telly together or reading aloud from their favourite book of the day.
Scenes like these (reminiscent of the classical happy American family in those old Hollywood movies — “Honey I’m back! Missed you! Where are the kids?”) are reportedly becoming commonplace all over Britain as lack of enough dosh is forcing more and more people to stay at home — and make the best of their forced confinement.
The economic crisis is doing wonders not only for the family life but is also claimed to have boosted domestic tourism with cash-strapped Britons preferring to spend their holidays locally instead of going abroad; made movie-going (the cheapest form of entertainment) popular again; and is even contributing to environment.
A new study says that pollution levels have come down as motorists are driving less because of higher fuel prices; and the rise in air fares has led to a fall in air travel and, consequently, in carbon emission.
There are also many other ways in which the economic crunch is said to be helping the “green” cause. Here are a few, courtesy The Times columnist Alice Thomson:
“Fewer people are moving house so they are buying fewer white goods such as washing machines and fridges. They may not be queuing up for £9 organic Poilane bread, but for the first time in a decade they are discarding less food.... Children are wearing hand-me-down uniforms rather than new ones made in sweatshops. Bottled water sales have fallen. Garden centres have reported a 10 per cent rise in the sale of vegetable seeds in the past 12 months. People are saving money by growing their own potatoes and carrots. They are turning off their central heating for a few more months of the year .... And instead of carbon-offsetting their holidays, they’re simply going on fewer of them.”
So, with the economic downturn actually doing such a lot of good who’s afraid of it? Except, of course, those affected by the housing market crash, higher mortgage rates, threatened job losses and rapidly falling purchasing power. And their number runs into millions.
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Wrong spelling? What’s that?
First, they did it to English language usage and, in the rush to globalise it, said: let everyone have their own English. And now they want to do it to English spelling.
Frustrated by his students’ poor spelling, a British academic has controversially suggested falling back on that oldest trick in the book: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Ken Smith of Buckinghamshire New University wants pundits to agree on a set of “variant spellings” of some of the more commonly misspelt words such as “their” for “their,” “argument” for “argument,” “twelth” for “twelfth,”, “truly” for truly and — horror of horrors — “speech” for speech! His argument is that these (and a host of other) words are so routinely misspelt that it is best to accept the “variant spellings” instead of moaning about them.
“Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem, or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such,” he wrote in The Times Higher Education Supplement furnishing a long list of words most commonly misspelt by his students “misspelt” being one of them!
Dr. Smith clarified that he was not advocating that the wrong spelling should be taught in the classroom.
All I am suggesting is that we might well put 20 or so of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language on the same footing as those other words that have a widely accepted variant spelling,” he said.
His suggestion was greeted with fury by puritans who called it a prescription for further dumbing down a language that, in the process of being globalised, has already lost a great deal of its originality. Some pointed out that the number of words that were commonly misspelt was so vast that if Dr. Smith’s suggestion was accepted it would add up to a parallel dictionary.
As reported in these columns recently, research has shown that half of native Britons whose first language is English struggle with their spellings, and are unable to get even routinely used words like “friend,” “liaison,” “definitely” and “accommodation” right. It showed that a majority of the “under-35s” had difficulty filling a job application without help confirming what employers have been saying for a long time: that it is almost impossible to get candidates with good writing skills.
Variant spellings” are clearly a lazy option which will only reward those who can’t spell correctly.
What next: a “variant” grammar?

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